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Very Moving Pictures

Flick Chick

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Got any old footage of your childhood visit to Disneyland, or that backyard barbecue at Grandma's house on the Jersey Shore? People with such memories stashed away in the basement are invited to attend Home Movie Day on August 13 at Burlington College. "This is a very egalitarian, free event for people who don't necessarily have the equipment to view their 8mm, super-8mm or 16mm films," explains Barry Snyder, who heads the school's cinema studies department.

Experts will be on hand to assess your vintage reels from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. "We can offer advice on how to preserve material that's been sitting in a closet for years. And we'll make sure it's screenable," Snyder says. In the afternoon, some of the amateur works will be showcased at a public session.

The mid-August Home Movie Day began in 2003, and has been celebrated in various places around the country, including last year in White River Junction. Snyder went there to check it out. "Maybe 40 people came, mostly those with footage and film cultists who get off on the smell of projectors," Snyder quips. "The whole thing was wonderfully spontaneous. An elderly couple brought their vacation movies from the 1940s, for example, and someone else had their 1955 birthday party. Part of the fun is that organizers have no idea what they'll get."

That appeal convinced Snyder to host the 2005 gathering. "These are cultural documents," he notes. "They enhance our sense of history through a peek at everyday lives. The films may have been boring to watch at one time, but now we notice how people interacted, how they dressed. Look at that refrigerator! Look at those drapes."

According to Snyder, it's OK to bring "orphan films," the kind that come "from a distant uncle or you find in the attic." The process is first-come, first-served, and only one submission per person will be presented.

Although the silent images may be scratchy and reflect use of shaky, hand-held cameras, they often have depth. "It's insightful, in the raw, full of discovery," Snyder says, "even radical. Watching them might provide a strong emotional experience. These can be intimate accounts of a vacation in Hawaii or of a soldier just home from the army. Many capture poignant moments."

In an era when the masses have chosen video over film stock, he is a champion of early technologies. "There's a false idea that digital is superior," Snyder suggests. "We're really celluloid people here, even though it's disappearing. Instead of everything smooth and polished, I think we have nostalgia for a creaky projector chewing up the sprocket holes. It's iconic."

Video recording has become so ubiquitous, in fact, that "our innocence is gone, for sure," Snyder theorizes. "We're a more self-conscious civilization now."

For more information about Home Movie Day, call him at 862-9616, or email emailto:bsnyder@burlcol.edu.

The contemporary Yorkshire lass in My Summer of Love is as restless as one of the late-19th-century women Thomas Hardy depicted in The Return of the Native. Much like the novelist's Eustacia Vye, teenage Mona -- played by newcomer Natalie Press -- dreams of escaping the sleepy village that suffocates her lively spirit.

The 87-minute film, which opened last weekend at the Roxy in Burlington, gives Mona more romantic options than would have been imaginable for her literary predecessor. A lesbian affair of the heart is not so shocking in modern times.

Mona has been alienated from her ex-con brother Phil (the wonderful Paddy Considine of In America fame) since he became a born-again Christian and began turning a pub inherited from their late parents into a church. It's fascinating to witness the struggle between his sanctimony and the quick temper that no doubt once helped land him in jail.

Mona's outlook brightens when she is befriended and subtly seduced by the artsy Tamsin (a feature debut for Emily Blunt, who recently portrayed a Roman vestal virgin on the ABC-TV miniseries Empire). An affluent student summering at her family's nearby estate, she seems exotic to the small-town girl. Their dynamic allows for an interesting perspective on Britain's evolving class system.

Director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort) coaxes brilliant performances from all three actors and keeps the audience nicely off-balance in this bittersweet portrait of a young protagonist with more pluck than poor Eustacia had.

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